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April 15, 2014

Summary: Child molesters are too concerned with their own sexual gratification to care about the pain they levy on their victims.  These injuries never go away; they stay with a child for the rest of their lives.  It impacts them mentally, socially, and even physically.  Yet, this only applies to 10% of all child molestation victims; 90% go unreported.

Child molesters are the true pariah of our society.  Sick, selfish, deceitful, lying and manipulative are but a few choice words to describe the character of a predator.  Worse yet, there is no definitive way to identify a child molester, as most of them are in positions of trust and know their victims – some of which are pillars within the community.  Many of these predators will ‘accidentally on purpose’ brush up on a child in inappropriate ways; when confronted, the predator will try to play it off as an accident.  The real tragedy is what happens to the victim, often too naïve and innocent to know the difference: the permanent damage done to the victim.  The damage extends well beyond the immediate trauma of the abuse; the residual effects register mentally, socially, and even physically – and they last a lifetime.

Mental Effects:  Victims of child sexual abuse suffer both immediate and long-term mental health injuries.  In many cases, victims suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which includes continually re-living the nightmare as one of the symptoms.  There are also cognitive distortions; the study documented that victims are likely to have chronic self-perceptions of helplessness, hopelessness, impaired trust, self-blame, and low self-esteem.  These distortions continue on through adolescence into adulthood.  The emotional distresses include increased depression, anxiety, and anger.  This never goes away.

Physical Effects:  Research indicates that a woman’s brain gets marked in distinct patterns after sexual abuse; this in turn alters the somatosensory system, or the synapses made in the brain that process the ‘sense’ of touch; specifically where the genitalia is located.  In adulthood, many victims reported sexual problems in adulthood; reduction in desire and sensation were most common, but also pain; likely brought on by cortical thinning in that region of the brain that decreases pain threshold – a direct result of the emotional damage.  A separate study noted that the physical effects also include decreased gastrointestinal health, gynecologic health, cardiopulmonary symptoms, obesity, increased substance use (smoking/drinking), and risky sexual behavior.  This also never goes away.

Social Effects:  The research can be broken down into two areas; standard social behavior (daily interaction), and domestic social behavior (romantic interaction).  In standard social behavior and likely owed to the emotional toll, victims are likely in a lower socioeconomic status.  With regards to a love life, many reported the disruption of intimate relationships and the general assumption their partner was indifferent and over-controlling – directly reflecting difficulties in trusting people.  This also never goes away.

It should, but doesn’t sound crazy that these predators tend to rationalize their sexual interests and validate their behavior, given the seriousness of their actions.  Maybe this explains why a typical child molester offends an average of 200-400 times before being caught, if at all.  The FBI claims that only 1 of every 10 cases of child sexual abuse is reported.  That’s 90% of victims who will go untreated.  The emotional strain of seeing a claim through, from start to finish, is a daunting emotional task – it’s even more cumbersome while dealing with the permanent trauma of the abuse.  Silence, however, is the abuser’s best friend.  The abuser, nor the institution that placed them in the position to abuse children, can be held accountable without the brave victims that share their story.  At Estey & Bomberger, we have a moral obligation to our community to encourage victims to hold their abusers accountable.   It won’t heal them forever, but at least the process can begin.


Things You Need to Know About Child Molesters

Understanding the Psychology of Child Molesters: A Key to Getting Confessions

Sexual and Emotional Abuse Scar the Brain in Specific Ways

Immediate and Long-Term Impacts of Child Sexual Abuse

Oxford Journal of Pediatric Psychology: Long-term Physical Health Consequences of Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Meta-Analytic Review

The effect of child sexual abuse on social, interpersonal and sexual function in adult life